You Are What You Eat

topantiinflammatoryfoodsThere’s a lot of info flying around the Internet about the Ankylosing Spondylitis diet. The idea behind it is that you can cure it (bollocks!)
or improve symptoms by changing your diet (I can see that might be possible…). NASS have a whole page dedicated to AS and Diet that is very informative and I would highly recommend reading it.

It’s a great idea and is actually based on a scientific hypothesis rather than things like the Paleo Diet which uses the magic of the ancients or some such drivel to cure everything that affects modern man. (From what I understand of it, the concept is that Paleolithic Man didn’t have to live with rheumatological diseases, cancer, dementia and the like. So if we eat like them then we won’t either. The proponents of this always seem to forget that Paleolithic Man didn’t live with them because he was usually dead….)

caveman-hunting-mammoth
I suppose you could try to improve the efficacy by dancing around the garden in a loincloth and then heading out to hunt a woolly mammoth with a whittled spear you’ve made. Just make sure that you have understanding neighbours!

But back to the real science. It was suggested that some of the proteins in certain foodstuffs are similar in structure to foreign bodies that the immune system would normally attack. (In particular certain starches.) This sets off some types of bacteria in the stomach. Once this part of the immune system is triggered in someone susceptible to autoimmune diseases like AS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Colitis etc… then it becomes overactive and starts to turn on the body.

It’s a nice story, and makes some sense. But at the moment there’s no proof either way. The theory itself though gave scientists a different way to look at it. Rather than looking for a particular trigger or trauma (a very unscientific straw poll was run by one of the AS groups that I belong to and it seemed to tie in the trigger with an accident or something similar) it could be connected to a combination of genes, diet and exercise.

I’m not sure that the trauma is the trigger, it could be that we’re just not as conscious of the symptoms until it’s raised in our mind. That’s the thing with chronic pain, it’s very easy to put it to the back of your mind and just live with it until it gets unbearable.

Anyway, you let me get distracted and go off on a tangent. Why didn’t you tell me to get back to the point!?

no-starch-diet-for-ankylosing-spondylitis-patients_3So, that’s the theory about diet and its effect on AS. The idea behind the AS Diet is that you can cut down on/remove the foods that are likely to trigger the immune response. Processed starches are some of the worst culprits.

The evidence is inconclusive at the moment, some people swear by it. They’ve been able to stop or reduce their intake of medication and feel much better for it. Some people don’t see any benefits at all. And there are reports from a small minority that it increases their symptoms. I tried it and didn’t see any major changes, and discussed it with my Rheumatology Nurse who hadn’t observed any improvement in her patients that had tried it.

I can’t see any major reason why you can’t try it yourself, but the usual caveat applies. Never make changes to your lifestyle just from Internet advice. Speak to your doctor to get the right advice for you.

In the meantime I’ll stick with my tried and tested anti-inflammatories and immuno-kryptonite. It works for me!

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